Earlier this summer, as part of pride activities for the Dublin Pride Parade, I went to see “God Loves Uganda,” a documentary film produced and directed by Roger Ross. It is, in short, about the fierce opposition of homosexuality in Uganda and the influence of American evangelists in spreading these ideals.
Watching the movie was no easy task. Witnessing the abuse and struggle that the LGBTQ community goes through in Uganda and knowing that our country was behind it all was heartbreaking. I nearly forgot most of the time that this was actually happening in the world because of the insanely close-minded ideals that the aggressors believed in.
Sitting in that movie theater, surrounded by people who were taking part in a pride parade in a country that was on its way to change, I found it difficult to put myself in the Ugandan situation. This is quite possibly why I found the movie so shocking.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a highly contested anti-homosexuality law in February. It codified homosexual acts as illegal. According to BBC News, some of the terms included life imprisonment for living in a same-sex marriage, life imprisonment for ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ and five to seven years, a $40,700 fine, or both for the ‘promotion of homosexuality.’
It was soon after I saw this movie that the law was repealed in the courts. On Aug. 1, the law was struck down by five judges for a legal technicality: there were not enough lawmakers present to vote on the issue.
The Guardian reported that the law was originally brought to court by 10 petitioners who challenged it on the basis of human rights. These matters were not discussed in court. The judges dismissed the law in such a way that it would be easy for it to be enacted again.
Homosexuality is still illegal in the country under “colonial-era laws,” according to The Guardian. However, since the law has been overturned, Uganda has celebrated its first pride parade. The joyous occasion was held on Aug. 9 as an invitation-only event.
What angers me, though, is that the United States was so slow to react to the situation. People from our country played a huge part in propelling anti-homosexuality feelings in Uganda. American evangelists helped to draft these laws into existence. Yet when things got out of hand, the government failed to clean up the mess their citizens had made. They didn’t even start thinking about stopping aid programs and imposing visa restrictions until June, a good few months after the law had been signed into effect. If our country claims to continuously strive to bring democracy and freedom to oppressed people, the question remains: why couldn’t we bring ourselves to do the same for Uganda?
Uganda still has a long way to go in the fight for human rights. This may be the push the government needs to ensure an even harsher law is passed next time around. But maybe this will give activists in the country enough confidence to unite and defeat their homophobic aggressors. Maybe this will be a step in the right direction for Uganda.